83. Tianjin

83. Tianjin

Our Sunrider convention was in Tianjin, three hours by bus from Beijing.  We passed miles and miles of rice paddies, and other crops growing.  Vendors by the road sold watermelons and bottles of water, and Pepsi.  We saw Kentucky Fried Chicken, and brick and stone huts where farmers lived in little villages.  The roads were good, and there were many trucks, all owned by the government.

The huge gymnasium at Tianjin held 6000 excited Sunders from all over the world!  Lion dancers and acrobats entertained us, and hundreds of Sunriders received awards.  An inspiring time!

We received a note from the tour packager apologizing for separating the Hawaii group from the rest.  We would have to stay in Tianjin overnight instead of going by bus back to Beijing.  “Tough break!”  We would miss the tiring three hour bus ride back to Beijing, and have to stay overnight in a really nice hotel, the Crystal Palace, and then fly to Hong Kong well ahead of the main group.

The Crystal Palace Hotel apparently catered to International visitors.  They had a fantastic American style buffet breakfast.  I had oatmeal, an omelet, and pancakes!

Next day, at the gate of Dragon Air for check in, I told the clerk we had requested wheelchair assistance.  She made a face, and said, “We don’t have a wheelchair.  Let me see what I can do.”  It was wobbly, but it had wheels, so I was wheeled to ground level by an attendant, and told to wait.  I keep insisting that I could climb the stairs, but the attendant said, “wait,” and disappeared.

We waited — and watched the other passengers climbing the stairs to the plane parked some distance away.  Finally, a wheelchair transport van arrived, and took me to the cargo entrance of the plane, where the van telescoped up and I was loaded on the plane with the cargo!

Hong Kong again! This time to sit out a typhoon, and enjoy other unique experiences.

Join us next week for more…

82. Climbing The Great Wall of China

82.  Climbing THE GREAT WALL of China

At the bottom of the steps leading up to THE GREAT WALL, I waved at Dale, for help.  I grabbed the back of his belt, and we began walking up with me balancing with one hand on the side of the wall.  At the first tower, Dale and Debbie took off, and I stood alone.  I looked at the steel step ladder leading to the top of the guard tower, and wondered, “Have I  come far enough?”   Then I remembered the words of Pian, saw my chance, and climbed the ladder!  I stepped out on rough stones and gazed at one of the great wonders of the world, THE GREAT WALL of China!

From the top of the tower we had a magnificent view in both directions.  Guard towers were spread out about every 100 yards, and interrupted the ant-like flow of thousands of people from all over the world, including hundreds of our fellow Sunriders.  Then the sun broke through the haze to highlight our incredible experience!  Betty took a picture of me from below, then climbed up to join me.

Time to leave, and the ladder was jammed with people.  How would we get down the ladder?  Two portly Japanese tourists loaded with cameras and bags were jockeying to get on the ladder.  As one man started down the ladder, he said something that the other did not like.  The second man followed down the ladder and started a fight.  Security guards intervened, but for the moment, the ladder was empty, and Betty and I got down easily.

There were no Sunders in sight, and I was having trouble negotiating the steeper walk down with my cane, but help was nearby.  Betty motioned to a couple of security guards that I needed help.  They grabbed my arms, and helped me all the way back down to the foot of THE WALL.  Betty took a picture of me being helped by the guards on THE GREAT WALL of China!

Our bus driver Pian was horrified when Betty shared about her taking a picture of the guards helping me down THE WALL.  “You did what! They didn’t take your camera?  You could have been arrested!  You never take pictures of the police!”

Another day with an amazing experience of climbing THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA, one of the seven wonders of the world!  We had some Divine provision to make it up and down the tower ladder, and guards standing by to help me walk down the steep incline to the bottom of THE WALL!

81. Going to THE GREAT WALL

81.  Going to THE GREAT WALL

We liked being in the front seat of the lead bus of our eight bus convoy on the way to THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.  Pian was our driver again.

Maneuvering through traffic of bicycles as cars – we were glad to have a police escort that led the way with sirens wailing, flashing lights, and policemen waving their arms out the windows.  Radio-alerted police stopped traffic at intersections all the way for forty-eight miles!

At one point the lanes ahead were full, so the police car crossed over into on-coming traffic waving to oncoming traffic to merge into one lane.  What an exciting ride!

Part way there, we passed a tourist souvenir store, then discovered we were supposed to stop there.  The police waved us through a U-turn — all eight buses, and back to the FRIENDSHIP STORE.

The store had some amazing things for sale.  Paintings, huge vases, sculptures, and life-size figures.  A ship carved out of green jade was an example of the craftsmanship of the Chinese people.  This store catered to well-to-do tourists!

We could see THE WALL from the bus as we approached.  THE WALL snaked up the ridges and along the top of the mountains and disappeared in the haze in the distance, miles away.  Guard towers commanded THE WALL every hundred yards or so.  THE Wall is 4000 miles long, took 300 years to build, 200 years before Christ, when ancient Greece was flourishing.

At the base of  THE WALL, I left my walker at the bus and took my cane.  I looked at the steps leading up to THE WALL, and the steep incline up, and wondered how I would get up since there was no handrail?

Next week: Climbing THE GREAT WALL for an amazing experience!

80. Forbidden City, China

80 – Forbidden City, China

FORBIDDEN CITY!  This walled city in the center of Beijing was the home, (and prison) of the emperors of China after it was built in 1400 AD, until the Japanese took over in WWII.  The massive walls of FORBIDDEN CITY dwarf the Great Wall in height and thickness, and the huge buildings of wood and stone are built without nails — before Columbus discovered America!

There were 9000 rooms spread over 178 acres of land.  Fully occupied with the royal family, concubines, guards and attendants, there were 10,000 people living inside.  No commoner was allowed to go in, and no one who lived there was allowed to leave.

If you saw the movie, “The Last Emperor,” you’ve seen part of it.  Now it is a museum and a tourist challenge.  “Challenge” because this square mile complex has great elevated buildings, “halls”, for the throne room, banquets, quarters, and gardens, and courtyards, requiring near athletic ability to climb steps and hike!

My preparation for the trip paid off!  I had purchased a 3- wheeled walker Instead of relying on my cane.  Pushing the walker, and with passing Sunriders helping on stairs, I maneuvered my way up and down, and through the mile long complex with little difficulty!  A magnificent experience!  I have walked where the Emperors of China walked, and stood before their throne!  I marveled at the architecture and ornate buildings, and chuckled at a conspicuous out-of-place hand painted sign — “NO SMOCKING”.  (Yes, that’s the way it was spelled)

The last place we stopped to rest was at the end of FORBIDDEN CITY in the Emperor’s gardens. The gardens were a beautiful and peaceful place.  We sat under large gnarled trees in cool shade, a welcome respite after hiking in the sun across the massive courtyards.  (One lady fainted from heat exhaustion)

Our bus arrived and we took the short ride back to the hotel. An exhausting day, but amazing experience!

A once in a lifetime experience!  We walked where the Emperors of China walked, and saw where they lived — THE FORBIDDEN CITY!

79. Tiananmen Square – China

79.   Tiananmen Square

Our bus tour took us first to Tiananmen Square, a huge open square surrounded by political buildings, with a large portrait of Mao Tse-tung at one end.

A young woman with a tiny yellow flag said, “Follow me,” and disappeared with our group into the teeming crowd of people.  They were going to walk a mile to the next attraction – FORBIDDEN CITY.  We told Pian, our English-speaking bus driver, that we would have to stay with the bus.  There was no way we could keep up with the group.

An official stepped on the bus, and announced to us, “You must stay with your group!”  Pian spoke to him in Chinese, and he left.  Plan got off the bus, and spoke to a man in uniform, who gave him a piece of paper.  Back on the bus, Pian asked, “Have you suffered to come here?”  Thinking of the long tiring flights from Hawaii and Japan, we replied, “Yes.”  His response was, “You have suffered to come this far, you must suffer some more to see what you came to see.”

He then drove Betty and me on narrow streets marked NO BUSES to the entrance of FORBIDDEN CITY.  He pulled in near to the huge gate and parked under a sign, “No Parking.”  (We were praying we and Pian would not be arrested.)  Plan reassured us that the paper he got from the officer would protect us.

While Betty and I waited in the air conditioned bus for our group, we got acquainted with Pian, and learned some Chinese history and culture.  Pian was a “retrenched” English teacher, who could make more money driving bus than teaching, because during the Red Guard Cultural Revolution in 1966-1976, teachers were not favored.  His daughter was in college studying a subject she chose because she was more certain of passing the test to get into college.  It was not the subject she preferred.

Plan said while he understood each individual word, he was puzzled by a billboard he had read, “LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT”.  “Could you explain it to me?”  Not only could we explain it — we were living it!

Our group finally arrived an hour later, sweating and sunburned.  The young woman with the yellow flag said, “Oh good, you are with the bus.  Just stay on until we meet you at the end.  FORBIDDEN CITY is a mile long.”  Plan winked at us, and we followed the group through the gate.

Up next – an incredible adventure touring Forbidden City!